Have you recently been promoted to a senior-level management position in your company or organization, and are concerned that despite having the talent, skills and work ethic necessary to lead, you lack the kind of strong presence that commands respect and gets results?
If you can identify with the above, don’t worry — you are not alone. Millions of women have entered the workforce over the last several decades, and through sweat and sheer hard work some have ascended to positions of power and leadership. But many equally talented women have not. That’s because most companies fail to recognize and tap into this vast reservoir of talent. Most companies fail to provide women with the leadership training that is necessary for them to soar. There’s also another reason: Many women, used to societal norms that place men at the top of the pecking order, struggle with the concept of leadership.
For decades, sociologists have debated whether true leaders are made or born. In studies, some concluded that “real leaders” were indeed naturally blessed with gifts of charisma, charm, toughness, vision and resiliency. To that end, unless you were the archetypal tall, handsome, vivacious, eloquent and gregarious male figure reminiscent of John F. Kennedy or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. you most likely weren’t viewed as a true leader. There were exceptions to the rule, but the message has been clear: Leaders are born, not made — and almost always they are males. Well, despite the conclusions of some wire-rimmed academics, leaders aren’t born male.
In fact, that antiquated theory has been obliterated by more recent studies that show that great leaders can be made. And the even better news for women is that many of the things we are taught as little girls and young women — patience, empathy, open mindedness, the willingness to listen — are the hallmarks of great leadership.
Many women in business already have these abilities, but are stifled by self-limiting, negative thinking. They don’t know how to balance the demands of their daily lives and tap into their creative muse. Retraining yourself to be a creative thinker is a critical component to feeling confident and having the requisite skills to lead complex organizations. These seven steps will help you become a generator of new ideas:
1. Let your past be your guide.
One of the simplest things you can do is spend some time thinking about a time in the past where you generated a creative thought or new idea. Reflect upon that experience and extrapolate something from it. You’ll be surprised what you can learn from prior experiences.
2. Never say never.
In trying to cultivate your creative right-brain thinking, you must develop a mindset for success. This means be willing to eliminate negative thinking which will inevitably inhibit your ability to generate new ideas. Remember, your mind is essentially neutral. It only acts upon what you tell it. So, if you tell yourself positive and empowering things, you are likely to have positive thoughts. If you tell yourself you can’t do something or its beyond your reach, believe me, it will be.
3. Trust your intuition.
Many women have the uncanny ability to feel, sense and perceive things differently than men. Learn to trust your “sixth sense” and recognize that an “aha moment” may come in a dream, or an unconscious thought. Look for them and act upon them.
4. Don’t be afraid to bend the rules.
Most women have been socialized to conform to the status quo, which says “don’t break the rules, work within the system.” We are often taught that it’s not befitting a lady to be too anything — too loud, too pushy, too aggressive, too smart and, most of all, too effective. Get over this and do it quickly. To be creative, you must be willing to question and to challenge the status quo. Most things can be done better, and when we are willing to challenge past assumptions, there is usually an opportunity for creativity and improvement.
5. Take a chance.
You are not going to learn to generate new ideas if you are a prisoner to the status quo. If you are afraid of failing or taking a chance, if you’re afraid of dreaming big, you’ll never achieve great success. Generating a new thought is just that, thinking about things differently than the way they exist today. Take chances and be willing to fail. Success is often born of failure.
6. Increase your knowledge.
One of the simplest ways to expand your mind and creativity is to increase your exposure to art, music and history — different cultures, religions, businesses, organizations and people. Forward thinkers usually have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and read lots and lots of books. From the classics to my new book, Make It Rain: How to Use the Media to Revolutionize Your Business and Brand, reading will enhance your leadership skills.
7. Give your brain creative time.
Finally, you have to set aside time for brainstorming. You cannot expect to generate new ideas if you spend 100 percent of your time preoccupied with the worries, problems and events of the day. Your mind will not be open to new thoughts because it will be cluttered with the thousands of thoughts required to complete the tasks at hand. Get use to setting aside a certain amount of quiet and reflective time each day where you refresh your brain and make it receptive to new ideas and thinking.
The traits women naturally develop from childhood to adulthood provide the basis for the skills we need to lead companies and organizations at the highest level. When we dismiss age-old stereotypes about women and leadership, and use our intuition, we can give new meaning to the pop culture moniker “boss lady.”
By Areva Martin
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